Monday, January 6, 2014

Michael Oatman, MASS MoCA, and my state art conference part four!

all utopias fell, by Michael Oatman
Back in November I told you about my family visit to MASS MoCA (the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art),  but I never got around to telling you about one really special installation at the museum.  Later that same month I attended my state conference, and was very excited because Michael Oatman, the artist responsible for this remarkable piece,  was scheduled as one of the speakers at the conference.  He didn't disappoint!
The installation I am referring to is called all utopias fell, and and includes a 'crash-landed satellite' (actually a 1970's era Airstream trailer) pictured at the top of this post and directly above.  To reach it, you have to walk up a scary staircase in a creepy boiler room, and head out on a catwalk up in the air where the Airstream sits, tattered parachutes blowing in the air around it.  We were there on a particularly nasty day, which added to the surreal effect of the location of the piece. 
 The stairs in the boiler room, going back down
one of the parachutes

Inside the Airstream is the Library of the Sun, also part of the installation.  Michael Oatman invented a whole story around this installation, and I can't begin to explain it all to you here, but I was thrilled that he spent a good part of his talk at our conference discussing this particular work of art.  He spoke about the whole theme of the piece, and the whole process of creation.  Totally fascinating.  I wish my photos did it justice!
 Which way is up?  There were many reflective surfaces inside the Airstream.  The hooded young man in the photos is my son, and next to him below is my husband.  And that's me taking the pictures, of course. 

Unfortunately, due to a camera glitch, I have very few photos of the rest of this piece, and all the totally outrageous stuff you encounter in the Airstream, so I recommend, if you ever have an opportunity to visit Mass MoCA during the spring/summer/fall months, make sure you look for this piece.  It is outside, and a little funky to find, but totally worth the effort for the marvelous experience.


  1. Have you heard of or read Ready Player One? by Ernest Cline... The first image in your post reminded me of the cover of his book. Cline explores the idea of a virtual utopia through the eyes of an 18 year old in search of a hidden treasure. I am not one for sci-fi/ fantasy and it was admittedly one of the nerdiest books I've read, but I loved it.
    Also, I would LOVE to get to Mass MOCA, but its three hours from where I am and would take a good deal of planning. Pretty awesome that the artist spoke at your state conference!

    1. Sarah, I hadn't heard of it and just looked it up. Very intriguing, and definitely now on my must-read list. My only concern is that I may be such a dinosaur I won't get all the pop culture references. I'm not a geek, at least not in this day and age.

      As for MASS MoCA, a good weekend trip is to go there, also the nearby Clark which is a lovely museum that focused a lot on Impressionism. Then there are some beautiful state parks for light hiking, Williams College, nearby Bennington (I love Bennington Potters), and so much more. We stayed at a really cool place, The Porches Inn, which is right across the street from MASS MoCA. It is a renovated row houses, lots of the original woodwork etc, and has, get this, a YEAR-ROUND outdoor swimming pool! I swam in it in November, below freezing outside, and I was not the only person in the pool. (There's also a hot tub.). A good place for a mini-vacation!! MASS MoCA also offers musical performances and more. Cool place.

  2. You should check out the museum at Williams College when in the neighborhood as well. It is very interesting and constantly featuring intriguing installations as well. The Norman Rockwell Museum is only about 40 minutes away in the south part of the county, also a great treat! The Berkshires are full of galleries and the studios of practicing artist. Lots to see and visit.

    1. Yes, all great advice!!! It's a terrific area.